Sunday Worship, 7 March 2021

  • After this service there will be an online communion service which is open to all
  • Coffee and chat 11.15-12.15 on Sundays
  • Craft and chat 2-3pm on Mondays
  • Lent studies Thursdays 25 February – 25 March on Zoom 10.30am or 7.30pm
  • ‘Lent Lunches’ Thursdays 25 February – 25 March on Zoom
    Bring your own lunch, chat with others and short devotions

Welcome      

The LORD is in his holy temple;

 Let all the earth be silent in his presence         

Habakkuk 2: 20

Hymn 153 Great is they faithfulness

Prayer

We rejoice because of what God has done

 through our Lord Jesus Christ

 who has now made us God’s friends

Father God

You are a great God

 you are far bigger than the universe

 you were there before the Big Bang

  and you will be there when all energy runs out

 you caused it all to come into being

 and every moment of every day you are watching over it

You are a holy God

 you don’t do things on a whim

 you aren’t selfish or greedy

 you are a caring God

 you want wholeness and fullness of life for all

 you care passionately about injustice, abuse,

  selfishness and greed

You are a saving God

 you save us from ourselves

 from the consequences of our thoughts, words, and actions

 in Jesus you showed us how to live

 in Jesus you taught us how to live

 and through his death and rising again

  you have enabled us to be your children

You are so great, so holy, so caring

 but so often we have failed you in what we do, say and think

 we have ignored you and taken you for granted

We are sorry

Forgive us

Help us to be faithful followers of Jesus

 to live out the promises we have made

 and to be the people you want us to be

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen


All age time

The Temple in Jerusalem was no small building – it is reckoned to have been the second largest in the ancient world. It was set on a platform above the edge of a valley and dominated the landscape around. The walls of the platform, from the valley floor, were about the height of a 15-storey tower block. The platform itself was about the size of 20 football pitches. There were porticos at the edges, the largest of which was probably taller than York Minster. It had a sophisticated one-way system to allow over a million pilgrims to access and leave it safely during the major Jewish festivals.

The site was regarded as ‘holy’. People had to undergo certain rituals before they could come in. When they offered sacrifices only the best was good enough for God: it wasn’t a way of getting rid of the lame dove or the mangy sheep. Money offerings had to be worthy of God too: no bringing into God’s house coins with dedications to foreign gods, or carrying images of people or gods on them – something forbidden in the Ten Commandments. So people could buy good quality animals and suitable coins on the way in.

Trouble was, it was all too easy to charge over-the-top prices to a captive market – and some may well have done so. That would have annoyed Jesus. He would probably also have been annoyed by the rules and regulations about who could and couldn’t come into the building.  If you were disabled you weren’t allowed in (not that you would have made it up and down the stairs anyway). If you hadn’t performed the necessary purification rituals or your life was in a bit of a mess, you weren’t welcome. There was limited access for ‘foreigners’, a designated (small) area for women and children, and only the very special could get close to the symbolic place of God’s presence.

For Jesus that wasn’t right. He believed that God loved and welcomed everyone, no matter who they were or what their background was. We see in the stories about him Jesus shocking the respectable synagogue-goers by the people with whom he mixed. Jesus welcomes everyone, he wants his church to be open and welcome – no barriers, no ‘we don’t want people like you here’, no distinctions between more important and less important. All are welcome in God’s house and in God’s family.


Reading        John 2: 13-22


Hymn 404 I danced in the morning

Reflection

Sunsets are one of God’s gifts to humanity, and I really love sitting here on the Mount of Olives watching the sun go down on the city opposite: the silhouettes in shades of red and orange, purple, grey and brown. Those who live there – especially those who run the place – like it to be referred to as the ‘Holy City’, but somehow that sticks in my throat, as it is such a complete misnomer. More human blood has been spilt in fighting for control of it – especially by those who like to call themselves ‘the people of God’ – than has been shed from all the animals offered as sacrifices in the Temple.

For so many of those who live in the city and run it, or have a major financial stake in it, the pursuit of power and wealth is their main motive. They will go to any length to achieve their ambitions: truth, justice, compassion, loyalty, all may be sacrificed in pursuit of those goals. Greed, abuse, indifference and self-centred-ness reign supreme. And hypocrisy! Whenever I go into the Temple my nose quickly registers the smells of burning animal flesh and incense, but , both are swamped by the reek of hypocrisy and self-righteousness that fills the whole building.

You can just hear them, if you challenged them: “How on earth could you possibly call me self-righteous or a hypocrite? I fulfil all the requirements of the Law specified by the Sadducee authorities, I do all that the Pharisee rabbis say that I should do. I come here to pray, I bring offerings over and above what is required, I am most diligent about what I eat, how I wash, with whom I mix. So what could possibly be wrong with that? How could God not but be pleased with me?” And if you challenge them, “What do you mean, we should be including lepers, prostitutes, foreign collaborators, people with disabilities, fully into the people of God? There’s absolutely no way we will! We are decent, respectable people and don’t want to be seen mixing with those who are not. God doesn’t like them, and neither should we. He has blessed us with good things because we are faithful, and they are cursed because of their faults. God has ordained how things should be: men matter more than women and children put together, foreigners can never be the same as us, some people are made priests or aristocrats to rule the rest.”

I’ve heard it again and again. It makes me sick, it makes me angry. This isn’t at all what God wants, it is using God’s holy name to shore up an unfair and corrupt system. God’s house is supposed to be a house of prayer where all may come to God and share fellowship with him and with each other. All should be welcome there: male and female, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, wise and foolish, weak and strong, healthy and ill, able and disabled, young and old – and everyone who fits somewhere in between. God’s love, God’s Kingdom, embraces them all. He burns with anger when people put up barriers, especially when they accuse him of being responsible for their prejudice.

I feel the power of God’s Spirit raging within me and driving me to act. I must go and demonstrate most clearly that God does not welcome barriers or corruption – least of all in his holy house. It will be a sign to the world that God is acting, is bursting in on human history, to address what is wrong and to establish his true values, his kingdom. I am called by God, through my death and hoped-for resurrection, to bring about that change. Those who share with me, through the signs of bread and wine, will know what it is to be part of that community where there are no barriers, no divisions, between them and God, between them and each other. They will know that they are all equally loved and valued in God’s eyes.


Prayer for others and Lord’s Prayer

Loving God

You see into the hearts and lives of people

 to understand what their real needs are

We bring you now our prayers for others

 trusting that you know far better than we do what people need

 and yet you can take and use our prayers

 in your work of bringing healing and wholeness

We pray for those who are struggling with unhappy lives

 hurting, broken or abusive relationships

 for families not speaking

 who have lost contact

 for people who feel that their life is going nowhere

 that no one loves or values them

We pray for the Queen and her family, the government

 for all in positions of leadership in this and every land

We pray for those who don’t have enough to eat

 those who don’t have somewhere to call home

 those who are ill, those who look after them, and those who worry about them

 those waiting for or receiving treatment, and those for whom there is no treatment

 those worried about a friend or relative

 those worried about home, work or money

 those who long to live in peace and safety

We pray for your whole family through Jesus

 the worldwide church, the church in Dumbarton

 our own congregation

 that all may remain faithful to you

 strength to cope with difficulties

 and succeed in their witness to Christ

 and their endeavours to bring change to the world

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us


Hymn  166 Lord of all hopefulness

Blessing      

Be bold to share the life of Christ and show his love

and the blessing of God Almighty

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

rest and remain with you

today and every day and forever. Amen


Communion:

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